A new raft of Gold Coast exporters are emerging in sectors of health, manufacturing and the creative industries.
With large listed exporters like Billabong set to carve profits this year in the wake of a global decrease in retail spending, niche manufactures are having their day in the sun.
For Burleigh Heads-based MacMed Health Care, the journey overseas has been sporadic. After landing deals in the UK and New Zealand, the company now has its sights on Japan.
Established in 2000, the company specialises in the custom manufacture of an extensive range of uniquely configured pressure reduction products such as mattresses and cushions. The brand was designed to assist in the prevention and management of pressure ulcers.
Director of product development John Thomas, says the company is gearing up for the Arab Health event in January. Arab Health is the largest and most prestigious healthcare event in the Middle East. More than 2500 exhibitors attend from around 65 countries. More than 50,000 visitors descend on Dubai for the four-day exhibition.
“Export is difficult to manage, especially with the UK as it’s so far away and you really need to be over there talking to these people says Thomas.
“We are having talks with Japan at the moment and will focus our attention to Arab Health, which will hopefully bring new opportunities.”
One initiative aiming to bolster local trade opportunities abroad is the Gold City Council’s International Business Development Program.
The program has reported year-on-year success, with more than $50 million in export related sales over the past three trade mission programs (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09). This has resulted in the creation of more than 520 new jobs for the city.
Board chair John Witheriff, says local business is benefitting with a TradeStart export adviser working within GCCC to present significant opportunities for local export-ready companies.
“In the six months to March 2009, local businesses working with Business Gold Coast’s Tradestart Program had generated $9.5 million in export sales, which resulted in the creation of 70 full time equivalent jobs,” says Witheriff.
“These export sales will also add $7.6 million to the Gold Coast gross regional product, which presents a very positive impact for the city.”
Witheriff says export activity is critical to local economic development.
“Export activity generates a flow-on effect from the suppliers to the exporters, which in turn increases household income and impacts local spending, creating a multiplier effect,” he says.
Chief Austrade economist Tim Harcourt, says Gold Coast exporters are helping to protect the country from recession.
“Because of exporters, the Australian economy is faring far better than the majority of our global counterparts,” he says.
“Australia’s net exports contributed 2.2 per cent to first quarter GDP, the largest contribution since 1961, with regions such as the Gold Coast posting encouraging numbers.”
More than 50 local companies have engaged in the TradeStart program since its inception, with 18 businesses actively participating.
Council’s economic development director Darren Scott, says trade missions to date have accounted for 7-10 per cent of council’s employment target of 2235 jobs per year in the export areas.
“This target needs to be hit year-on-year for the next 30 years to achieve a thriving Gold Coast economy, as determined through Council’s Bold Future program and our Economic Development Strategy,” he says.
“It is an ambitious target, but the success of this program shows it is indeed achievable, while providing a valuable service for Gold Coast businesses.”
The TradeStart Program for 2009-10 will target China, Hong Kong, Korea and the Middle East.
Despite the diplomatic rumblings in China with the Rio Tinto fiasco, Queensland Trade Minister Stephen Robertson, has moved to strengthen China’s status as a vital trading partner for the state.
Robertson met with the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China, Ren Gongping, to convey the Queensland Government’s commitment to further strengthening friendships and trade relations with China.
Despite a softening in the resource sector, Queensland’s merchandise exports to greater China grew from $2.7 billion in 2003/04 to $5.1 billion in 2007/08 in the last five years.
“This makes Greater China Queensland’s second largest overseas buyer of merchandise goods,” says Robertson.
“The health of our State’s economy, industries and workplaces are absolutely dependent on exporting to the world.
“We are an export-dependent state. China remains a vital market for Queensland and we believe that protectionist policies such as these could potentially risk $5.1 billion per year of merchandise exports for Queensland companies.
“Not only would such policies risk our valuable trading relationship with China, but it would affect our international reputation as an open, progressive free-trading state.
“The Greater China market contributes heavily to Queensland jobs, and the continued maintenance and nurturing of free and open markets have brought significant benefits to Queensland’s economy.”
But the leader of The Nationals and federal Opposition spokesman for trade, Warren Truss, says Australia’s relationship with the tiger economy is in tatters.
“There is an Australian businessman in detention without charge on suspicion of espionage, the Australia/China Free Trade negotiations have been stalled for seven months and resource contract negotiations are in disarray,” says Truss.
Truss says Australia’s relationship with China has been in freefall for months and that Australia’s economic recovery will be slow if we cannot get our relationship with China back in order.
“Instead of pursuing the Coalition’s approach for a comprehensive agreement across all sectors, the Rudd Labor Government has now decided to pursue discussions sector by sector,” he says.
“This approach will almost certainly lead to a low quality agreement offering little in key areas such as investment, agriculture, education services and intellectual property.”
At state level, the latest report from the Centre for International Economics concluded that more than one-in-five Australian jobs are in trade-related activities.
“That represents roughly 450,000 Queenslanders who are employed as a result of our access to export and trade markets,” says Robertson.
Queensland companies currently export a range of products to the Greater Chinese market, including mining equipment, technology and services, marine products and services, architecture and design, biotechnology.
Queensland also exports education and training services, tourism services, beauty and lifestyle products and services, creative industries, environmental management and urban planning products.
Significant opportunities also exist in agribusiness and food, targeting China’s massive consumer markets.
“These are industries we can not afford to have impacted by the adoption of inward looking, populist, protectionist policies,” says Robertson.
Trade Queensland says it is maintaining strong representation in China with trade representation in Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shanghai, providing export advice and assistance to Queensland businesses.
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